Park rangers often caution campers and hikers in the wild to be "bear aware," but apparently that warning could also apply to a north metro neighborhood where teenagers last week encountered a black bear outside a Centerville home.
As of Tuesday, a video of the incident shared by WCCO-TV had recorded more than 36,000 views on Instagram of the teens running from the bear, which was likely searching for food made scarce during the summer drought.
In the video, Hailey Nelson, 17, and Dori Arndt, 15, are seen pulling weeds from a front yard garden at the home of their friend Hailey Nyberg, 17. At first thinking that a black Labrador retriever was passing by, Nelson and Arndt were stunned when they realized it was a black bear instead. They jumped to their feet and ran to the front door as the bear continued down the street.
"They were screaming, 'There's a bear! There's a bear!' " Nyberg said. "I didn't see it until we were already inside. It didn't faze me as much."
"We were so shook up. It took us an hour to calm down," Nelson said.
Nyberg's dad, Brian, reported the sighting to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), while other neighbors called 911.
Centennial Lakes police posted a notice on Facebook that the department had received "multiple calls regarding a bear sighting in Centerville." The announcement ran alongside an image of cartoon character Yogi Bear.
"The bears that show up in our area typically aren't a threat to humans," police said.
But such encounters are becoming more common amid the drought, wildlife officials say. Earlier this summer, the DNR said that with such dry conditions, black bears are more emboldened to seek food outside the wilderness, in places such as dumpsters, cabins and even homes.
Woodbury residents back in April reported sightings of black bears and were told to remove bird feeders and any food kept outdoors that might attract them. Washington County enacted a deer feeding ban, imposed by the DNR, in response to the increase in sightings.
The DNR has resources available online for deterring bears and what to do during an encounter. For starters, the DNR says, "Don't panic. Don't approach it. Don't shoot it," and it maintains that "If you live in Minnesota, you live in bear country."
Brian Nyberg said that while his daughter and her friends got their "15 seconds of fame" with the viral video, it was discouraging to see people online criticizing them for doing "exactly the wrong things" when confronted by a bear.
"I guess they forgot their suburban teen bear training," he quipped.
The DNR maintains a bear sighting database where people can submit a record of their own sightings, which are made public at the end of bear hunting season in October.
Kim Hyatt • 612-673-4751